Student Profiles

Spring 2014

 

Landon Durak  

Landon Durak

Durak is a fourth-year graduate student in the research group led by Jared Lewis and devoted to finding new and better ways to synthesize organic chemicals. Researchers in the Lewis group are using enzymes and metal catalysts to functionalize C-H bonds quickly and more efficiently. The goal is to make it easier to turn cheap and abundant hydrocarbons into the kinds of complex organic compounds used widely in industry and medicine. Read more...

 

 

 

Cathy Poor  

Cathy Poor

Catherine Poor, PhD’11, is trying to make acrylic another way, using bacteria and sugar. She is a scientist in protein engineering at OPX Biotechnologies, a company in Boulder, Colo., that is developing new ways of making chemicals on a commercial scale using biological chemistry, not traditional synthetic chemistry. OPXBIO engineers microbes, like bacteria or yeast, to produce chemicals out of simple and renewable feedstocks, like sugar or carbon dioxide and hydrogen.Read more...

 

 

 

Mitch Smith  

Mitch Smith

Smith is a professor of chemistry at Michigan State University. He leads a research group that is creating new syntheses using organometallic complexes, especially ones involving the transition metal chemistry of boron. In 2008, he and his colleague at Michigan State, Robert Maleczka, Jr., received a Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award from the US Environmental Protection Agency for this work. They were honored for developing a new catalytic method that allowed the manufacture of complex molecules, such as those used in pharmaceuticals and agriculture, under mild conditions with minimal waste and toxicity. Read more...

 

 

 

Fall 2012

 

Zhenan Bao  

Zhenan Bao

Electrical devices come in all shapes and sizes, but the traditional design paradigm has always been a box. The rise of polymer-based electronics seems poised to create a paradigm shift—by making possible a new generation of flexible, stretchable devices. Zhenan Bao, SM’93, PhD’95, an associate professor of chemical engineering at Stanford University, has an ambitious vision for that technology: to combine bendable organic polymers into a new kind of device that she calls an “electronic skin.” Read more...

 

 

 

Nicole Tuttle  

Nicole Tuttle

A living cell is a veritable chemical factory, constantly breaking up proteins and constructing new ones. But not every machine in this factory is well understood. Fifth-year graduate student Nicole Tuttle, SM’09, is trying to remedy that biological lacuna using chemistry; after all, as she says with a little exaggeration, ”biology is just chemistry writ large.” Read more...

 

 

 

Fall 2011/Winter 2012

 

Seth Darling  

Seth Darling

Seth Darling, PhD’02, wants to sell you the sun: it’s “by far the most abundant source of carbon-neutral and renewable energy on the planet,” he says. As Argonne National Laboratory’s designated Solar Energy Strategy Leader, Darling integrates the efforts of the various lab teams researching solar energy in all its aspects, tries to grow the lab’s solar energy program, from basic research to technology transfer, and gets the word out about Argonne’s research in the area—including his own. Read more...

 

 

 

Vikram Bhat  

Vikram Bhat

Vikram Bhat received his PhD this past summer. A former student of professor of chemistry Viresh Rawal, Bhat received his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay (IITB), in 2005 and his master’s degree from Chicago in 2006. He’s now a postdoctoral scholar at the California Institute of Technology. Read more...

 

 

 

Summer 2011

 

Alan Vaughn  

Alan Vaughn

Since becoming a manager at ExxonMobil’s research facility in Bay City, Texas, Alan Vaughan, PhD’90, doesn’t get to do much lab work; his involvement in research has been limited to directing funding to academic labs and attending the occasional scientific conference. That doesn’t mean that Vaughan’s left the lab bench for the office desk completely: he manages a group of more than 20 research chemists and technicians exploring catalysts used to make plastics. Their focus, he explains, is on developing “higher-performance materials, so that the customer can use less of the material in the same application and save money.” Read more...

 

 

 

Dugan Hayes  

Dugan Hayes

Dugan Hayes, SM’09, earned a bachelor’s degree from MIT in 2008. In 2010, he won a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship to support his research with his adviser, Professor Greg Engel. Read more...

 

 

 

Spring 2013

 

Nancy Forde  

Nancy Forde

If there’s one thing Nancy Forde, SM’95, PhD’99, came away with from her time at the University of Chicago, it’s that science can be a team sport—literally. “We had a very good women’s intramural basketball team from chemistry and physics,” says Forde, associate professor of physics at Simon Fraser University. “There were some very competitive women in the chemistry department, and they recruited heavily. I had only played basketball in gym class before that, but we won the University championship twice, beating the undergrads. It was really fun.” Read more...

 

 

 

James Dama  

James Dama

When he was in high school, James Dama couldn’t decide whether he ultimately wanted to study philosophy or bioengineering. “In the end, I decided that if I were doing bioengineering, a lot of philosophy would be in there too,” he says. “A lot of theory of abstraction.”

He attended Caltech but maintained a philosophical outlook there and in his graduate studies at UChicago. As a third-year PhD candidate and one of five graduate students with Professor Greg Voth’s Center for Multiscale Theory and Simulation, Dama focuses on/studies coarse-graining methodologies, a topic he explains this way: “If you understand something at a fine-grained level—if you can see all the trees—how do you figure out the forest?” Read more...

 

 

 

Summer 2010

Karen Kerr  

Karen Kerr

It’s no surprise that Intellectual Ventures, a leading global investor in inventions, hired Karen Kerr, PhD’95, to forge relationships with universities doing innovative translational research. After all, the recently appointed US Head of Business Development earned her doctorate in physical chemistry and had planned on pursuing an academic career.

 Until, that is, Kerr became fascinated by inventing, investing, and intellectual property near the end of her degree program. That’s when she began working on business plan development and technology vetting for ARCH Development Corporation (then part of the University). “I never looked back,” she said. Read more...